A Case Study of the Terrorist Cult of Mojahedin-e Khalq (2)

The translated text of an article presented at the Symposium of the Link between Cults and Terrorism held in Isfahan.


MKO defined as a cult

The original meaning of the term cult, derived from the French word "culte", comes from Latin noun "cultus" which is related to the Latin verb "colere" meaning "to worship or give reverence to a deity". The term has originally a positive, religious connotation but in recent years, it has turned to be a widely used popular term, usually connoting some group that is at least unfamiliar and perhaps even disliked or feared. This latter use of the term has gained such credence and momentum that it has virtually swallowed up the more neutral historical meaning. The term can be defined either sociologically, concerned with behavior, or theologically, concerned with doctrine. “Sociological definition Include consideration of such factors as authoritarian leadership patterns, loyalty and commitment mechanisms, lifestyle characteristics, [and] conformity patterns (including the use of various sanctions in connection with those members who deviate)”. [3]


Authoritarian leadership is the most domineering characteristics of a cult leader and most ex-members of a cult enumerate the hallmarks of a cult leader as follow:


– single authority

– questionable credentials

– requirement for unconditional trust

– they always claim to be in unique direct contact with God

– sexual misconduct

– grandiose promises

– they demand major ongoing financial contributions from members

– they claim that evil sinister forces attempt to subvert them [4]


Besides these characteristics of a cult leader, a cult, regarded destructive, has its own characteristics. Dr. Robert Jay Lifton’s criteria for a destructive cult run as follow:


1. Authoritarian pyramid structure with authority at the top

2. Charismatic or messianic leader(s) (Messianic meaning they either say they are God or that they alone can interpret the scriptures the way God intended.

3. Deception in recruitment and/or fund raising

4. Isolation from society — not necessarily physical isolation, but this can be psychological isolation.

5. Use of mind control (Mileu Control, Mystical Manipulation, Demand for Purity, Confession, Sacred Science, Loading the Language, Doctrine Over Person, Dispensing of Existence) [5]


MKO portraits two completely different images; its relation with the world outside and its internal structure. Duped by its heavy propaganda blitz, most people in Western countries, unaware of its terrorist nature, take it for a revolutionary, freedom-seeker, and pro-democratic organization. The group ‘s internal structure, totally concealed from the eyes of the outsiders, nearly shares all of the characteristics of a destructive cult with added emphasis on the authoritarian pyramid structure and mind control techniques. Massoud Rajavi, the long self-appointed leader, is known to be the mastermind of MKO. Released from Shah’s prison after revolution, Rajavi took up the responsibility of acting as the organization’s spokesman that awarded him an opportunity to develop authority both within the organisation and in the public’s perception.

How did the Mujahideen become a cult? The principal lever for the transformation of the organization from a mass movement to a cult was Rajavi’s “ideological revolution” in January 1985. The first phase of this revolution basically involved Masoud Rajavi marrying Maryam Qajar Azdanlou, the wife of Mehdi Abrishamchi, Rajavi’s most trusted lieutenant. The marriage was an overt violation of Islamic marriage rituals and a majority of ranking members saw the whole affair as an ugly and bizarre form of cuckoldry. The event, more regarded as an internal coup d’ata, promoted the husband to the rank of a guru and the wife to the rank of the joint leader of the organization. Massoud Rajavi indoctrinated the ideological revolution as a purging process saying “Those Mojahedin members who pass through this furnace, are more steadfastness, more steel like person, and have more future in the resisting’ [6]

Masoud Rajavi was exalted as a charisma and some subservient considered the historic achievement as an outcome of an ideological genius in Massoud Rajavi. Bijan Nyabati, a devoted a partisan, in adoring Massoud Rajavi’s personal charisma states:

In the front of revolution and progressiveness, you would not find two people with the same political and organizational potentialities of Massoud Rajavi among all the opposition. [7]

Nyabati abruptly changes the position of Rajavi from a leader to that of a religious, Shi’it imam:

The main core of Mojahedin’s ideological revolution was to solve the issue of leadership. It could put an end to a problem known to be the Achilles’ heel in most contemporary revolutions and movements; only a stabilized theory of imamate inside the organization could lead the new revolution. [8]

Many of his messages imply that he has a close relationship with Imam Zaman (the last and still awaited Imam in Shiite Islam) and therefore he has direct contact with God. Under Rajavi’s instructions as an ideological leader, members began to give up Islamic practices and rituals because, as stated by their chosen ideological leader, they were no longer individually responsible; they were only responsible to Rajavi and he was responsible to God. Later on, especial prayer texts were devised to praise him and his wife, Maryam.

The ideological metamorphosis opened a new gate onto a path where, in the first place, the rationality and even the social-political understanding of individuals were targeted. In other words, individuals would be transmuted into obedient and subjugated creatures serving the wills of the ideological leader. The whole idea can be concluded as:

That is clear that such process could pursue in no rational route. The dominant element in the process is “love” and “emotion” that bypass logic and reason. The means are not those of polemics and persuasions but self-devotion. That is the point where Massoud claims Mojahedin’s heart. [9]

A wave of advertising total devotion to the ideological leader began to be imposed on the minds of the insiders to indoctrinate that the ideological leader had an ideological vision which was broader and more universal than understanding and vision of an ordinary follower. He could see things and think in a way that seemed illogical and irrational at the time but proved to be correct at the end. Hence the followers had to follow the leader not on the basis of understanding, but on the base of total trust.

The second phase of the full transition to the status of a cult started after the Iran-Iraq cease-fire in 1988. Rajavi launched thousands of his warriors on ”Operation Eternal Light” across the border to capture Iranian territory. It was a total military failure. The operation before anything was a resolution of Rajavi’s own volition, a proven suicide operation excluding the leader himself. The failure proved to be a victory for Rajavi; the made amendments to the ideological revolution after the operation guaranteed his position as a hallowed figure with the sole authority to question anybody while the members were not in the least permitted to violate the leader’s sacramental sphere. To create a compelling control atop, all the individual attachments and values had to be detached. The detachment did not include physical spectrum, but above that, psychological scopes.

In a general meeting, Rajavi announced that as the ideological leader, he had issued the divorce of all the members from their spouses and asked all to hand over their marriage rings. The physically divorce of spouses and, consequently, children was the first taken steps; the world outside with all its attractions and emotional attachments had to be cleaned of the mind and devalued. One had to replace them with an alternative that was no one but Massoud and Maryam Rajavi.

Anne Singleton, a separated member of MKO in her book so describes manipulation of the members within the cult:

The psychological manipulation of members springs from Rajavi’s avid interest in using psychology as a means of controlling people. He has read voraciously from the time that he left prison, books on politics, psychology and history etc. His ideology is a mishmash of all these books, and not a single part of it derives from original thinking. Rajavi uses psychological manipulation to control people. The massuls [responsible ranks] are instructed to behave in particular ways towards individuals according to what is required of them or in response to a problem they might have. On a simple level, the warmth and affection shown to newcomers is a basic method of attracting them, fulfilling a basic need, which they lack. The person is told – and this is the ideological element – that if they look for love and affection outside Maryam they will become corrupt and ‘nothing’, they will be condemned to a life of obscurity, drudgery and meaninglessness. A picture of ordinary married life is portrayed as a hellish prison for both sexes. Children are the ultimate burden, removing the person further and further from the glorious joy and happiness that could be theirs if they give all their love to Maryam. She will return their love a hundred fold, and only inside the Mojahedin will they be able to fulfil their true potential as a human being. [10]

During the first Gulf War and the US attack to Iraq, MKO leaders enforced separation of the members’ children residing in Iraq-based camps. The children, about 800 including little babies, were sent to different Western countries for some purposes. First they could be abused as potential fundraising instruments to collect large amounts of charity money on pretext of Iranian homeless children. On the other hand, the children could be trained as the next generation of MKO soldiers. Nadereh Afshari, an ex-member of MKO and who was posted in Germany and was responsible for receiving children during the gulf war, has revealed that when the German government tried to absorb Mojahedin children into their education system, the organization refused. Many of these children were sent to Mojahedin-run schools, particularly in France. She has elaborated that Rajavi ”saw these kids as the next generation’s soldiers. They wanted to brainwash them and control them. Every morning and night, the kids, beginning as young as 1 and 2, had to stand before a poster of Massoud and Maryam, salute them and shout praises to them “. [11]

In June 2003, people in some Western cities were shocked to witness one of the most appalling cult potentialities of MKO. On 17 June 2003 more than 1.200 France police and gendarmerie forces raided 13 MKO-run offices in Paris districts and arrested 164 suspected Mojahedin cadres as well as Maryam Rajavi on charges of terrorist activities. In the next few days, to carry out premeditated missions, a number of the group’s members immolated themselves in public to protest Maryam Rajavi’s arrest. According to reports issued by the group itself, ‘œ16 people attempted to set themselves alight in three days in Paris, Berne, Rome, London, Ottawa, Athens and Nicosia’. The human tragedy ended with two deaths; two women, Sediqeh Mojaveri, 44-year-old, and Neda Hassani, 19-year-old, died because of the self-immolation injuries. [12]

Besides old members joining the organization for political causes, a large number of the members are the young Iranian people who have been deceived to join the group. These young, unaware recruits fall into the trap of the middlemen who by false promises of good job, high salary and residence in Western countries paralyze their rational minds and send them to MKO’s camps in Iraq. Undergoing brainwashing methods in the camps, they rarely dream to return to Iran because they are unnerved and intimidated by the threats of being tried and even executed for having connection and cooperating with a counter-revolutionary group.

The members who try to leave the MKO or criticize it in any form have to pay a very heavy price. In a 28-page report released by Human Rights Watch in May 2005 entitled ‘œNo Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the MKO Camps,’ shocking details about inhuman behaviors and control of the insiders of MKO was published for the world. The facts revealed how dissident members were tortured, beaten and held in solitary confinement for years at military camps in Iraq after they criticized the group’s policies and undemocratic practices, or indicated that they planned to leave the organization. The report is based on the direct testimonies of a dozen former MKO members, including five who were turned over to Iraqi security forces and held in notorious Abu Ghoraib prison under Saddam’s rule.

A common, routine procedure in MKO is self criticizing and confession sessions. The members have to write detailed daily reports of activities, their previous night’s dreams, their thoughts, and even love and emotional daydreams. In some cases, they are forced to read their reports before other members and suffer humiliation. Ali Qachqaoui, a separated member, reveals: ‘œThey remote controlled us, like robots. They told us, ‘If you have sexual fantasies, even a dream, you must report it in writing in order to exorcise it’. In a speech repeatedly broadcast in video, Maryam Rajavi told the Mojahedin: ‘80% of your energy should be used in the fight against your sexual instincts’. Many of the organization’s officers, who protested against this sudden authoritarian and sectarian change of course, paid a heavy price for their insubordination. They were humiliated, tortured and imprisoned. [13]

As a closed cult, the members receive any information through a biased channel. No form of news and information, movies and even the group’s own TV productions is presented unless reviewed and censured beforehand. Even the members active in Western countries are severely prohibited to have direct access to the media and have to attend periodical controlling meetings, write reports, and listen to direct or televised addresses of the high ranking members and leaders.

MKO has long been using a lexicon of its own. The terms they use inside the organization have their own connotations different with those used outside. The followings are examples of a more than 1200 terms lexicon volume:


– Alternative: meaning MKO as the sole alternative for Iran’s current ruling power

– To become ‘˜H’: used when demoting a rank

– Organizational marriage: forced inter-organizational marriages ordered by leaders

– Food echelon: a food menu that qualitatively and quantitatively is prepared according to hierarchical posts

– Ideological pride: Massoud and Maryam’s marriage known to be a glorious hallmark of the organization

– Active: a member who well accomplishes the issued orders

– Ring of connection: meaning Maryam Rajavi. Members are not capable to unite with Massoud unless through Maryam

– The host: meaning Iraq

– The guesthouse: the jail where protesting members and quitters were held

– ‘¦. And more


To determine how dangerous MKO cult might be, ‘œthe Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame’ can be a good help. As Bonewits explains, ‘œThe purpose of this evaluation tool is to help both amateur and professional observers, including current or would-be members, of various organizations (including religious, occult, psychological or political groups) to determine just how dangerous a given group is liable to be, in comparison with other groups, to the physical and mental health of its members and of other people subject to its influence’. [14]


The Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame



Factors: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Low High1. INTERNAL CONTROL: Amount ofinternal political power exercisedby leader(s) over members. 1. _________________________ 2. WISDOM CLAIMED by leader(s);amount of infallibility declaredor implied about decisions or doc-trinal/scriptural interpretations. 2. __________________________ 3. WISDOM CREDITED to leader(s)by members; amount of trust indecisions or doctrinal/scripturalinterpretations made by leader(s). 3. _________________________ 4. DOGMA: Rigidity of reality con-cepts taught; amount of doctrinalinflexibility or "fundamentalism." 4. __________________________ 5. RECRUITING: Emphasis put onattracting new members; amountof proselytizing. 5. __________________________ 6. FRONT GROUPS: Number of subsid-iary groups using different namesfrom that of main group. 6. _________________________ 7. WEALTH: Amount of money and/orproperty desired or obtained by group;emphasis on members’ donations;economic lifestyle of leader(s)compared to ordinary members. 7. ________________________ 8. POLITICAL POWER: Amount ofexternal political influencedesired or obtained; emphasis ondirecting members’ secular votes. 8. ________________________ 9. SEXUAL MANIPULATION: of membersby leader(s); amount of controlexercised over sexuality of members;advancement dependent upon sexualfavors or specific lifestyle. 9. _________________________ 10. CENSORSHIP: Amount of controlover members’ access to outsideopinions on group, its doctrinesor leader(s). 10. ________________________ 11. DROPOUT CONTROL: Intensity ofefforts directed at preventing orreturning dropouts. 11. _________________________ 12. VIOLENCE: amount of approval whenused by or for the group, itsdoctrines or leader(s). 12. _________________________ 13. PARANOIA: amount of fear con-cerning real or imagined enemies;perceived power of opponents;prevalence of conspiracy theories. 13. _________________________ 14. GRIMNESS: Amount of disapprovalconcerning jokes about the group,its doctrines or its leader(s). 14. _________________________ 15. SURRENDER OF WILL: Amount ofemphasis on members not having tobe responsible for personal deci-sions; degree of individual dis-empowerment created by the group,its doctrines or its leader(s). 15. __________________________ 16. HYPOCRISY: amount of approval forother actions (not included above) which the group officially considersimmoral or unethical, when done by or for the group, its doctrines or leader(s); willingness to violate group’s declared principles for political, psychological, economic,or other gain. 16. ___________________________ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Low High


A precise evaluation of MKO well crystallizes it as one of the most destructive and visible examples of a group intermingling the characteristics of a terrorist group and a cult to be nominated a terrorist cult. A terrorist cult poses a greater danger because of the growing use of mind control and cult control techniques. Most terrorist organizations actively study and use mind control and cult control techniques to indoctrinate members into committing the horrific acts of terrorism that shock our senses. The real cause of much of today’s terrorism is not what the terrorists themselves advertise and claim in their publicly stated agendas and rationalized causes. The real cause of acts of terrorism is how these agendas and ideas were implanted into the minds of the members with mind control and cult control techniques by their handlers. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of the responsible minds and elites of a society to illuminate the naïve minds and depict a clear-cut image of a destructive cult to stop any further jeopardizing the young generation’s career.




[3]. A Guide to Cults and New Religions; ed. Ronald Enroth, Downers Grove, Ill, InterVarsity 1983, p14.


[5]. www.refocus.org

[6]. www.banisadr.infoideologicalChapter Five.htm

[7]. Bijan Nyabati interview with Zari Isfahani, Taliah-Sepidedaman.com

[8]. Nyabati Bijan; ‘œA distinct look at Mojahedin’s internal revolution, slightly from inside, slightly from outside’, 113.

[9]. Ibid.

[10]. Singleton Anne; Saddam’s Private Army, Iran-Interlink, 2003.

[11]. www.rickross.comThe Cult of Rajavi.htm

[12]. www.mojahedin.ws

[13]. www.mojahedin.wsbooksThe People’s Mojahedin of Iran: A struggle for what?

[14]. www.qed.net/bonewits/ABCDEF.HTML


Nejat Association – Translated by mojahedin.ws -August, 2007


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